I attended Disney’s Newsies at ASU Gammage over the weekend. The high-energy musical is based on the 1992 musical film Newsies, which was inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City.
The strike was a youth-led campaign to force change in the way that Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst's newspapers compensated their child labor force of newspaper hawkers. The strike lasted two weeks, resulting in decreased circulation for the “papes,” as Newsies called them. When the strike concluded, the Newsies had successfully negotiated a new compensation plan with the publishers.
The storyline includes an up and coming reporter, seeing a chance to make her name in the news business, who successfully places a story about the strike only to be banned from further writing opportunities by all of the New York City papers.
According to Mr. Pulitzer, “if it’s not in the paper, it doesn’t exist.” So by banning all news coverage, he believes that the strike will not exist. That has me thinking….is that true? Do we need media coverage to validate our work?
I think it is safe to assume that for most of us in the PR business media coverage is often the primary measure of our success. Did we get media coverage for project A, announcement B, etc. And in the early days of my career that was certainly one of the only ways we measured our success.
But there is so much more to public relations now than just media coverage. We are strategic counselors on a wide variety of issues for our clients and organizations that take into account things like branding, reputation, traditional and digital coverage, social responsibility, issues management, employee communications, among many other things. In fact, there have been times in crisis communications where NO media coverage was our measure of success.
So Mr. Pulitzer, I disagree. We don’t need media coverage to validate our project. It is certainly one aspect of what we do, but is in no way the only thing PR people do and should not be the only example of our success.